Green Chemistry and Atom Economy

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This figure is labeled, “a,” and, “b.” Part a shows an open bottle of ibuprofen and a small pile of ibuprofen tablets beside it. Part b shows a reaction along with line structures. The first line structure looks like a diagonal line pointing down and to the right, then up and to the right and then down and to the right. At this point it connects to a hexagon with alternating double bonds. At the first trough there is a line that points straight down. From this structure, there is an arrow pointing downward. The arrow is labeled, “H F,” on the left and “( C H subscript 3 C O ) subscript 2 O,” on the right. The next line structure looks exactly like the first line structure, but it has a line angled down and to the right from the lower right point of the hexagon. This line is connected to another line which points straight down. Where these two lines meet, there is a double bond to an O atom. There is another arrow pointing downward, and it is labeled, “H subscript 2, Raney N i.” The next structure looks very similar to the second, previous structure, except in place of the double bonded O, there is a singly bonded O H group. There is a final reaction arrow pointing downward, and it is labeled, “C O, [ P d ].” The final structure is similar to the third, previous structure except in place of the O H group, there is another line that points down and to the right to an O H group. At these two lines, there is a double bonded O.
(a) Ibuprofen is a popular nonprescription pain medication commonly sold as 200 mg tablets. (b) The BHC process for synthesizing ibuprofen requires only three steps and exhibits an impressive atom economy. (credit a: modification of work by Derrick Coetzee)

Green Chemistry and Atom Economy (OpenStax Chemistry 2e)

The purposeful design of chemical products and processes that minimize the use of environmentally hazardous substances and the generation of waste is known as green chemistry. Green chemistry is a philosophical approach that is being applied to many areas of science and technology, and its practice is summarized by guidelines known as the “Twelve Principles of Green Chemistry”. One of the 12 principles is aimed specifically at maximizing the efficiency of processes for synthesizing chemical products. The atom economy of a process is a measure of this efficiency, defined as the percentage by mass of the final product of a synthesis relative to the masses of all the reactants used:

Though the definition of atom economy at first glance appears very similar to that for percent yield, be aware that this property represents a difference in the theoretical efficiencies of different chemical processes. The percent yield of a given chemical process, on the other hand, evaluates the efficiency of a process by comparing the yield of product actually obtained to the maximum yield predicted by stoichiometry.

The synthesis of the common nonprescription pain medication, ibuprofen, nicely illustrates the success of a green chemistry approach. First marketed in the early 1960s, ibuprofen was produced using a six-step synthesis that required 514 g of reactants to generate each mole (206 g) of ibuprofen, an atom economy of 40%. In the 1990s, an alternative process was developed by the BHC Company (now BASF Corporation) that requires only three steps and has an atom economy of ~80%, nearly twice that of the original process. The BHC process generates significantly less chemical waste; uses less-hazardous and recyclable materials; and provides significant cost-savings to the manufacturer (and, subsequently, the consumer). In recognition of the positive environmental impact of the BHC process, the company received the Environmental Protection Agency’s Greener Synthetic Pathways Award in 1997.

Related Research: Research Article: Synthesis of irregular graphene oxide tubes using green chemistry and their potential use as reinforcement materials for biomedical applications

Source:

Flowers, P., Theopold, K., Langley, R., & Robinson, W. R. (2019, February 14). Chemistry 2e. Houston, Texas: OpenStax. Access for free at: https://openstax.org/books/chemistry-2e


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Green chemistry: principles and practice

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